February 23, 2013 2 Comments
I suck at space shooters. I’ve spent the last two years establishing this fact on this very blog. While I try to claim neutrality towards all genres, that’s obviously a bit of a stretch. Some I like more than others, with shmups typically being “the others.” I’ve just never been able to get into them. Which kind of sucks for the hard-working XBLIG community, because even ones that earn near universal praise (like Aeternum) don’t do anything for me. It seems like the best they can hope for out of me is “I wouldn’t rather be dead than play this.”
On that note, I wouldn’t rather be dead than play Pester. Congratulations to the team at Flump Studios for doing as good as you could do with this genre in relationship to me. I was able to get through the full hour Brian forces me to play these games (“out of fairness” he says, the goody two-shoes prick) without wondering if I’ll be locked up in the nuthouse for choosing to hurl myself through a plate-glass window to get out of it. And, while I wasn’t like wowed by the experience or anything, I wasn’t bored. It’s nothing new though. You’re a ship. There are enemies. Enemies fire a whole lot of bullets at you, and you fire a whole lot of bullets back. I’ve always kind of wondered about the economics of bullet hells. Presumably if enemies are firing plasma rounds at you with projectiles the size of small ships, that stuff has got to cost money. You would think they would fire a little more accurately. Conserve ammo, instead of seeing you, going crazy, and firing bullets in every direction including behind them. Or hell, since we’re dealing futuristic space warfare, you would think an enemy force that can employ thousands of ships to take out one single rinky-dinky little adversary could figure out how to do weapons that instantaneously destroy whatever they’re targeting the moment the fire button is pressed without giving them a chance to dodge out-of-the-way. What kind of morons do they have running these evil empires?
Anyway, it’s basic space shooter shit with some neat graphic filters added, and not a whole lot more. I played for a while and realized quickly that I was every bit as shitty at playing Pester as I am at every other game of this godforsaken genre. But the screen wasn’t so spammed with bullets that it was demoralizing or anything. Then something funny happened. At one point, I turned to Brian and said “honestly, I’m not having a blast or anything, but there’s nothing really wrong with this one.” Within ten seconds of me saying this, the game decided to give me stuff to complain about. I’m not saying this for comic effect. This really happened. First, I was fighting a boss that throws giant swords at you and died. That’s not the bad part. The bad part is when I blinked back into existence, the game spawned one of the sword bullets into the same space I respawned into and insta-killed me. The sword wasn’t there at that moment. It just appeared. A bizarre glitch I’m guessing, but it’s so weird that it happened right after I told my boyfriend I had nothing to complain about. As if the game heard me and said “nothing to complain about? Bitch, I’ll give you something to complain about.”
And Pester kept being a shithead to me after that. I played three straight rounds where the game never once spawned an upgrade for my ship’s guns. It spawned plenty of speed-ups and bombs, but no gun upgrades. It was fucking strange, because they had been plentiful before. Not that it really mattered. Gun upgrades or not, I still made it about the same length as I always did, which was between wave 7 and wave 10. Yea, I really suck at this shit. So I booted up Tempus mode, where lives are replaced by time. When you shoot enemies, instead of them dropping coins, they drop clocks that add one second to a timer. When you die, you lose ten seconds. The game goes until you run out of time. Okay, fine. Question: where the fuck is the timer? I couldn’t see it. Otherwise, it’s the same game with the same enemy layouts. You can also adjust the difficulty, and add extra challenges if you’re a masochist, like controlling two ships at once. I didn’t try it myself. I barely have the coordination to tie my shoelaces without breaking my neck in the process. I don’t need a game to tell me I’m an embarrassment to humanity. I already know it.
Really, Pester isn’t bad or anything. And the sword bit I mentioned above was a one-off thing. I guess I kind of, sort of recommend it. A little bit. I’m not sure if that’s because I genuinely enjoyed it based on merit, or if I genuinely enjoyed it because Brian got such amusement out of my pitiful lack of shmup talent. Either way, I had something vaguely resembling a good time playing it, and had the sense to turn it off before I got bored. Having said that, it’s not an ambitious title. This shit has been done before and Pester offers nothing new. Nothing. At best, it shows competence in making a functioning, mildly entertaining game that closely resembles about a thousand other games. I’m not against playing them, but I want to see a different angle on them. There’s got to be a wealth of unexplored twists for bullet hells. I mean come on, you guys are indie developers. You’re supposed to buck the norm. Be weird for the sake of being weird. Dance to the beat of a different drummer. When games like this fill out the cliché checklist with such determination, it’s kind of sad. Not as sad as watching me play games like this must be, but still pretty sad.
80 Microsoft Points made a fortune selling ammunition to an evil galactic empire in the making of this review.